23 SES 14 A, How Do School Inspections Aim to Further School Improvement?
Overview of the session
Many countries across the world arrange for evaluation of their schools and teachers in order to improve the quality of education. The quest for quality has become even more focused in the recent decade when economic globalization has increased the significance of quality education and international assessments of student performance provided measures for comparative appreciation of education results. Many education systems have attempted to modernize their governance by establishing some variety of an “evidence-based governance regime”.
These regimes are generally built on two dominant arrangements (Maag Merki 2010). The first one includes performance standards, setting expectations for student performance and using tests to evaluate student performance. The other arrangement is school inspections. Inspectorates of Education set expectations by virtue of their inspection standards and procedures; they assess the quality of education and hold schools accountable for a broad range of goals related to student achievement, teaching, organization and leadership. Achievement data on performance of schools may also be used as part of the evidence base to evaluate outcomes of schools.
Both arrangements are often implemented side by side in an attempt to build more balanced accountability systems. These balanced accountability systems are expected to address existing problems with e.g. score inflation of performance/test-based accountability systems and bureaucratization resulting from school inspections.
This session brings together a number of papers that are part of a comparative EU project studying the impact of different types of school inspections on the functioning of schools. The evidence base presented in the session will enhance our understanding of potential effects and side effects of accountability systems using school inspections.
Scholarly and scientific significance
There has been considerable discussion in the policy and research communities about the measures used to hold schools and teachers accountable and to promote school improvement. As of yet, we have no clear models to follow, and evidence on the effectiveness of school inspections is particularly lacking. This session provides some important insights into the mechanisms that are supposed to facilitate the effects of school inspections, bringing together perspectives from different countries. This knowledge is a necessary precursor to empirical research into the mechanisms of school inspections and to the development of effective accountability systems.
Structure of the session
The session includes three papers from a comparative EU study on the impact of school inspections in seven European countries. The first paper presents a background literature review and the conceptual model of the study in which the “program theories” (Leuuw 2003) of the inspection systems of the seven participating countries are summarized. The two subsequent papers present address different aspect of the study. The second examines the program theory of a decentralized country – in this case Switzerland - and will seek to address the reality that sees significant diversity of diversity of school inspection practices which aim towards the same goal. The third will use the data that has emerged from the first stage of the quantitative study concentrating on the case of Austria to evaluate and discuss the “program theory”.
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